Glass Ceiling Shattered

I wonder if it has escaped your notice that our political classes are in a bloody awful mess?

I wonder if you have noticed that our political classes are predominantly male?

It is time that men took a step back, a long way back, and let the ladies have a go. Let’s face it, they could not possibly do a worse job of it than us. Even saying ‘let them have a go’ is insulting and condescending, as if they need our permission. But that is indeed the case to date.

It is time the old-school-tie boys’ brigade went out and got real jobs and stopped screwing up the country whilst at the same time keeping female politicians down. Margaret Thatcher was the first female PM and now we have the second in Theresa May. The public school boys in her cabinet were in awe of her and feared her a little, as if Matron would soon tan their backsides for being naughty, and she went to Brussels, fought for a deal and actually brought it home.

The world is changing and we are, thankfully, seeing the rise of the strong female politician.

Hillary Clinton will, in all likelihood, be the first President of the USA; Nicola Sturgeon is taking no prisoners in her fight for Scotland; Christine Legarde is the head of the IMF; Janet Yellen is the Chair of the US Federal Reserve; Leanne Wood is the leader of the Welsh Plaid Cymru party; Marine Le Pen might well be in charge of France within the decade; Beata Szydlo is the Polish PM; Virginia Raggi is the first female Mayor of Rome and Baroness Scotland is the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Even looking closer to home, we have our regional Chambers of Commerce run by strong women - Sarah Springford (CEO Brighton), Tiny Tilley (CEO, Worthing), Ana Christie (CEO, Sussex), Christina Ewbank (CEO, Eastbourne) and Louise Punter (CEO, Surrey).

Christine Legarde has an interesting take on the situation, having said that her 30-year career as a high-flying lawyer and the world’s most powerful female finance minister left her convinced that men’s sex drive, testosterone and ego made them prone to taking decisions personally and to humiliating people. Most women in power, on the other hand, were less ruled by their libidos and thus able to make more cool-headed judgments, she said.

Mrs Lagarde, in the running to be France’s next prime minister, said: “Women inject less libido and less testosterone into the equation. It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, getting our point across, convincing people, reducing them to a partner who has lost in the process” The world’s 43rd most powerful woman (according to Forbes) continued, “It’s probably overgeneralised what I’m saying, and I’m sure there are women who operate exactly like men.”

Testosterone certainly seems to play into this. The indiscretions, the career-crashing ones that make the news, are all committed by male politicians. You don’t read about female politicians baring their breasts in snapshots and sending them to admiring male suitors while their cuckolded husbands are home taking care of the kids. You don’t hear about them soliciting sex in a restroom on their way to a speaking engagement, or charging their credit cards for an hour with a stud who subsidises his acting career by servicing older women.These are exclusively male forms of political career-crashing.

Research in the US has thrown up some interesting facts. More than 90 years after the first woman was elected to Congress, female politicians still hold less than a fifth of all national seats, and do only slightly better at the state level. But that’s more than just a blow for diversity and equality, according to a forthcoming study in the American Journal of Political Science - because women also rank as the most effective lawmakers in the land.

The research is the first to compare the performance of male and female politicians nationally, and it finds that female Members of the House rout their male counterparts in both pulling power and shaping policy. Between 1984 and 2004, women won their home districts an average of $49 million more per year than their male counterparts (a finding that held regardless of party, geography, committee position, tenure in office, or margin of victory). The spending jump was found within districts, too, when women moved into seats previously occupied by men, and the cash was for projects across the spectrum, not just ‘women’s issues.’

Women sponsored more bills, co-sponsored more bills, and attracted a greater number of co-sponsors than their colleagues who use the other loo. These new laws driven by women were not only enacted but were more popular. In a pair of additional working papers, researchers tracked every bill introduced between 1981 and 2009, and found that those sponsored by women survived deeper into the legislative process, garnered more press attention, and were more likely to be deemed ‘important’ overall. All of which leads the authors of the paper to conclude that it’s the women themselves, specifically, their skills at ‘logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building, and other deal-making activities,’ that are responsible for the gender-performance divide.

Move aside guys, as the girls are coming, and thank God for that.

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